There's an entertaining audio clip up on Cat Scratch Reader right now, of a DC-area radio dude losing his mind over the Redskins' Monday Night Football loss to the Eagles. It may just fade away like so much other radio, or it might go down as an epic meltdown alongside Chris Russo's famous tirade about the San Francisco Giants in 2003. Either way, there's one key element of the man's point that doesn't sit well with me, though I'm not sure I can articulate it well.
Essentially, I think he has a bizarre, misguided notion of his team's relationship with him, and that he doesn't feel he has any agency. Over and over, he says, "How dare you..." and then talks about the team playing poorly and how he and his grandfather spent so much money on the team and merchandise that they owe him better play.
I get that a region's identity can be closely tied to the performance of its local teams -- pro, college, high school -- and that it doesn't necessarily feel like something one chooses, like our families. And you know what? That's okay! It's a relationship that can have deep emotional resonance and importance when it flows smoothly, like a family.
What this radio shouter is missing, though, is that we do choose our families and friends, and we choose our teams. Every day, I choose, wholeheartedly, to include the Official Father, Mother, Brother, and Fiancee of Rufus on Fire in my immediate family. Yes, I was born into the situation, but I choose to continue keeping them a part of my life.
What this shouter is also missing is that just as in relationships with individual people, your sports team will let you down. Yankees fans have been let down before. Patriots fans have been let down before. Heaven knows the Bobcats have let us down time and again.
For people that we love, when they're engaging in destructive behavior, we might have to extract ourselves from their lives until they get everything together. We might even offer constructive criticism and set firm guidelines for how we're going to engage. You know what usually doesn't work? Berating and shouting and guilt-tripping.
In fact, I believe there's only one behavior that is truly unforgivable. Think of the deepest love one might experience, say, a parent's love for a child. Now, imagine that child does something terrible, like give up six touchdowns to Michael Vick while showing almost no fight and acting like it's no big deal. I imagine that, even if a parent has to temporarily separate herself from her child for everyone's well-being, the parent's love can lead her to eventually forgive her child and start building the relationship again.
The only thing that can't be forgiven? Refusing forgiveness. How can you forgive someone if they refuse your forgiveness? You can't.
As much as the the Redskins may be screwups, and the Panthers may be screwups, and the Bobcats may be screwups, they all want our love, and they're far from refusing forgiveness for their sins against our fandom.